9 August, Women's Day in South Africa.
|1956 march: photo courtesy- of- sahistory- website|
8 March is International Women's Day, and 9 August, South Africa's women's Day. August is celebrated here as National Women's Month.
You may think, why that change in South Africa? Before South Africa became an independent nation in 1994, 8 March, international women's day was celebrated here.
On 9 August 1956, the women in South Africa made a historic march to the Union Buildings in Pretoria to protest the many discriminative laws of the apartheid government elected to power only by the White people. From top to bottom, racist, the government promoted the White supremacist ideals that other races are inferior to them, so deserve inferior or graded equality. This is called apartheid; keep apart, the same as the caste discriminations in India; the difference is it is still kicking and alive there.
The apartheid government came into power in South Africa in 1948. Since keeping people apart was its working policy, it implemented pass laws immediately after power.
In 1952, it passed the Native Laws Amendment Act to legally restrict the Black women's movement through introducing the Passes and Permits. The implementation waited until 1954 for the Passes and 1956 for the Permits.
I don't want to detail here how those Acts affected the Black women here.
Federation of South African Women
Women of all races came together to form the Federation of South African Women (FEDSAW or FSAW) to protest the Passes and Permits and other discriminative practices.
Women from Indian, Black, Coloured and White political organisations and trade unions joined it. One hundred and forty-six delegates representing 230,000 women have attended its founding conference. The Constitution of the Federation set up objectives “to secure full equality of opportunity for all women, regardless of race, colour or creed; to remove social, legal and economic disabilities; to work for the protection of the women and children.”
In the ‘Women’s Charter drafted at the first conference, they demanded, among other objectives for “the enfranchisement of men women of all races; equality of opportunity in employment; equal pay for equal work; equal rights concerning property, marriage and children; and the removal of all laws and customs that denied women such equality.”
|1956 women's march|
A few other demands were:
1. The ‘tribal law’ of the pre-industrial society that put African women as ‘perpetual minors’ ‘under the permanent tutelage of their male guardians’ should get abolished.
2. Men cannot think of being liberated from the evils and injustices unless they extend to women’ complete and unqualified equality in law and practice.’
3. No one section of the people or the entire nation achieve freedom if the women remain in bondage.
All those demands got incorporated into the ‘Freedom Charter’ of the African National Congress, which served as a guiding document informing the South African Constitution after the nation got independence in 1994.
India and South Africa
As a woman born and brought up in India and living in South Africa, I can experience the differences in terms of the woman freedom here. I don't mean here it's problem-free; patriarchy rears its ugly head here, but women have the recourse for the offences meted out on her. They have a voice of the united races; the 9 August March, 65 years back, has set the foundation for them to march forward to fresh out whatever inequalities they face now-the economic inequalities, the major one. Most of the Black women are still facing economic disparities, and the fight for that continues.
Every time I read about that historical march: I feel humbled. I owe those personalities a great deal. How befitting it is celebrating here the women past, present, and future on 9 August.
This post, 6, is part of the Blogchatter Half Marathon